By Gene and Katie Hamilton
When you wake up on a wintry morning and turn on the faucet and no water comes out, it's not a good way to start the day. The sad fact is your pipes have probably succumbed to frigid air and frozen the water inside them. We've faced this situation a few times but have been fortunate to unfreeze the pipes before they burst, which is a massive problem that only a plumber can remedy.
If there's a trickle of water, keep it running so the water moves and can't freeze. Open the cabinet concealing the pipe leading to the faucet, and remove everything inside, so warm air can circulate around the pipe. If your have copper or plastic pipes, use a hair dryer or heat gun to warm the pipe and melt the water. Direct the heat to the pipe and away from anything that might burn from the heating appliance. Use a small space heater to help.
A plumber will charge $135 to unfreeze a pipe and repair a leak if the pipe burst from freezing. But this is a dicey job, and it's often not just one pipe that's frozen or easy to reach. A handy homeowner with plumbing tools and experience can repair a small burst pipe for $35, the cost of the pipe and fittings. You need a hacksaw or tubing cutter and an assortment of slip-joint pliers and pipe wrenches to cut and remove the bad section of pipe and splice in a short section of new pipe. You may get lucky and be able to fix it yourself, but it's been our experience that hiring a plumber is the way to go with frozen pipes. Definitely call a pro to fix a galvanized steel pipe.
To avoid frozen pipes in the future, insulate all the pipes - especially those on north-facing exterior walls. Cover them with a foam sleeve or wrap fiberglass strips around them. And pay attention to weather predictions. When the forecast calls for a severe drop in the temperature, open the cabinet doors in kitchen and bathroom cabinets so warm air can circulate around the pipes.
That sums it up. Knowing the average cost to repair frozen water pipes lets you compare doing it yourself with what you can expect to pay a contractor. To customize the cost to where you live add your ZIP Code in the cost box.